Arrow-right Camera
A&E >  Stage

Improvisation keeps things fresh for comedian Cash Levy

UPDATED: Thu., Aug. 31, 2017, 2:23 p.m.

Cash Levy will release his new hourlong special, “Game of Chance,” in the next few weeks. (Courtesy photo)
Cash Levy will release his new hourlong special, “Game of Chance,” in the next few weeks. (Courtesy photo)

Comedian Cash Levy can riff on anything under the sun.

Or in front of it, for that matter.

Levy and his family drove 14 hours from California before the recent solar eclipse to experience totality in Idaho.

He called the event awe-inspiring but also couldn’t help but think about how odd the moon can be.

“It’s all part of my theory that the moon has the strangest advertising campaign,” he said. “The moon’s always surprising us. Some days it looks different. Sometimes it will come out in the daytime. Sometimes it gets very frustrated and comes right in front of the sun like ‘Forget it. I’m tired of taking a backseat.’ ”

Levy’s ability to go off-the-cuff has helped establish him as one of comedy’s top improvisers.

He’ll perform Thursday-Saturday at Spokane Comedy Club.

Levy listened to comedy albums growing up and cautiously considered a career in comedy.

“My friends knew me as a funny guy but to make strangers laugh in other cities, that’s a whole different ballgame,” he said.

He did stand-up wherever he could and eventually developed a knack for improvisation after realizing he needed to find common ground with audiences no matter if they were in Louisiana or Vermont.

Levy noted that while some improvisers can come across more like put-down comics, his style is to ask audience members questions and simply react to what he notices in whatever town he’s in.

“People are so unique and so different across the country,” he said. “If you ask the right questions, the show almost becomes a collaborative effort, but I’m the conductor.”

The ratio of pre-written material to improvisation differs from show to show, but Levy’s improv ensures that every show is new to both him and members of the audience, some of whom come to multiple shows in one weekend because they know they won’t see the same set twice.

Levy’s ability to improv also lends itself well to “Cashing In with T.J. Miller,” the podcast he hosts with actor/comedian T.J. Miller (“Silicon Valley,” “Deadpool”).

The pair met about a decade ago in Chicago and stayed friends after Miller moved to Los Angeles.

One day Miller suggested the pair start a podcast. Levy was on board but didn’t want their show to sound like other podcasts.

“I was, like, ‘I don’t like how every podcast every comedian interviews other comedians then they go on the other person’s show and it’s all the same show,’ ” he said. “ ‘Also, I’m not interested in talking about celebrities or current events, gossip.’ ”

The pair launched “Cashing In” in 2012.

The podcast, which features a running joke that Levy’s real guest canceled so Miller fills in, finds the pair talking about things like artisan breads, teeter totters and the Edge and answering questions, like, “Why don’t horses have chairs?” and “Can your pockets be trusted?”

“You’re just listening in on two really great friends cracking each other up,” Levy said. “That’s really the basis of the show.”

Levy suggests new fans start listening closer to the beginning of the show as over time he and Miller have developed their own language of sorts, one so extensive it’s been cataloged on CashPhrases.org.

Being drunk, for instance, is “being sp’toinkered” on “Cashing In,” and hiccups are referred to as both “cups” and “cuppies.”

“Cashmoirs” are cashmere-related memories and “stampled” is, obviously, what happens when one is trampled by a stampede.

“People have shirts with phrases on them,” Levy said. “It’s created it’s own language. It’s been so fun.”

When Miller is unavailable for “Cashing In,” Levy hosts a podcast aptly called “Cash Withdrawal.”

He is also prepping to release his latest hourlong special, “Game of Chance,” on VidAngel.com in the next few weeks and is also finishing up “No Ticket Required,” a book of stories and tricks about his unusual hobby of sneaking into concerts and events like the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby.

“But no sneaking into my shows this weekend,” Levy said. “We won’t give the tips away just yet.”